Yesterday we got a chance to take a ride on the Honda U3-X Personal Mobility Prototype. Never heard of it? It looks kind of like a unicycle from the future, and it works similar to a Segway. With a limp.
After turning on this sleek and relatively lightweight (22 lbs) piece of metal and plastic, you fold out a simple seat and a couple of footrests. Sit down, put your feet in place, and moving is as easy as leaning in any direction, thanks the same balancing technology in Honda's Asimo robot.
It's not exactly hotrodding — maximum speed is 3.7 mph, or about the same as a leisurely walk — but it's virtually effortless. When it's time to juice up, you can plug it in to any outlet, and a charge lasts about an hour. Coolest aspect: Honda's omnidirectional wheel tech, which doesn't need to actually turn the wheel when you want to move sideways.
But what's a ride on this thing actually like?
While it's hard to imagine many scenarios where this would be useful (even Honda says it's still "looking at" applications), I had a great time riding around on one for 15 minutes or so. Besides finding uses for it, Honda may want to address a couple of issues: 1) Sudden changes in direction will cause the U3-X to fall over. You can see this happen to me at 1:30 in the video. 2) When you get off the vehicle, it has a tendency to jump unpredictably — it's virtually impossible to perform elegant dismount without turning it off first.
Even so, we wouldn't mind getting a bunch of these, but Honda told us it won't be a available for purchase anytime soon. That might be for the best, since the only thing we can think to use them for is a weekly round of DVICE bumper cars. If you can come up with anything better, leave a note below.